The dental assistant is a valuable member of the dental health care team. The scope of the dental assistant’s responsibilities is determined by educational preparation, type of practice, and the laws of the state in which one is employed. The dental assistant works at the chairside with the dentist. Chairside duties include receiving and preparing the patient for treatment; sterilizing and selecting instruments; assembling materials and equipment; organizing the work area; maintaining the operative field; exposing, processing, and mounting dental radiographs; and providing instructions in oral hygiene and nutritional counseling. Other responsibilities include office management and the performance of basic laboratory procedures. The dental assistant schedules appointments, maintains patient records and financial accounts, answers the telephone, prepares insurance forms, collects payments, orders supplies and maintains an inventory of same. Basic laboratory tasks such as pouring impressions, trimming study models, fabricating custom trays, and preparing base plates and bite rims are also provided by the dental assistant.
The New Jersey Dental Auxiliaries Act of 1979 provides for the extension of the functions normally performed by dental assistants. The rules and regulations for this legislation outline specific tasks which may be assigned to dental assistants possessing state “registration in expanded functions.” The teaching of expanded functions is an integral component of the UMDNJ-UCC curriculum.
By virtue of an agreement between UCC and the School of Health Related Professions (SHRP) of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) a certificate in dental assisting is conferred upon successful program graduates.
A high school diploma or its recognized equivalency with a minimum of a 2.85 cumulative grade-point average is required for admission into the program. In addition, scores from the College Placement Test must be forwarded for review. Those persons who lack certain basic skills will have to complete the indicated Remedial courses and demonstrate competence in all basic skills before beginning the program in January. In addition, an allied health entrance examination will be administered to each candidate as part of admission requirements.
The program is approved by the New Jersey Department of Higher Education and accredited by the Council on Dental Accreditation of the American Dental Association, the specialized accrediting agency recognized by the Council on Postsecondary Accreditation and the U.S. Department of Education.
Inextricably related to SHRP’s overall mission, the mission of the UMDNJ-SHRP’s Department of Allied Dental Education is to promote professional standards of excellence and leadership among its students and health professionals while meeting the health care needs of New Jersey residents through patient care, education, research, and service. The Department’s unique and innovative curriculum reflects the direction of allied dental practice and often presages the evolution of the profession. The Department seeks to develop new and innovative approaches to education while keeping pace with current treatment modalities and research strategies. The students develop a humanistic approach to health care delivery as well as critical thinking, problem-solving, independent decision making, and research skills which characterize the professional.
The Department strives to instill in its students and members of the allied dental professions, a dedication to lifelong learning, and provides opportunities for continued growth within the health professions.
The specific objectives of this program are that the graduate must be able to:
- exhibit competency as clinicians through demonstrated performance on the Certified Dental Assistants Examination (CDA) administered by the Dental Assisting National Board and feedback from Employer Surveys;
- assume responsibility for health promotion and disease prevention for individuals and communities through participation in multiple dental health education projects;
- perform multiple, advanced level dental auxiliary functions as defined in the New Jersey State Dental Practice Act under the auspices of Clinical Assisting and Internship;
- obtain the Registered Dental Assistant credential issued by the State Board of Dentistry of New Jersey;
- demonstrate professional development through membership in the American Dental Assistants’ Association and participation in related activities;
- display professionalism in the delivery of comprehensive dental health care through achievement of satisfactory grades in the section of the evaluation form for Clinical Assisting and Internship;
- prepare individuals for employment as dental assistants;
- determine student satisfaction with educational programming.